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ADAM MICHNA Z OTRADOVIC: THE CZECH LUTE
RITORNELLO, MICHAEL POSPÍŠIL

 

F10075   [8595017407529]   released 9/1996

play album Loutna česká - Ritornello 68:43 149Kč
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1. Intrada 1:01 15Kč
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2. Předmluva 4:30 15Kč
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3. Povolání Duchovné Nevěsty.Dialogus 5:59 15Kč
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4. Matky Boží slavná Nadaní 5:55 15Kč
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5. Svádební Prstynek 5:18 15Kč
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6. Panenská Láska 5:04 15Kč
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7. Žehnání s Světem 4:05 15Kč
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8. Duchovní Svádební Lázeň 5:28 15Kč
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9. Dušivěno 5:33 15Kč
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10. Anjelské Přátelství 7:05 15Kč
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11. Svádební Věneček 4:00 15Kč
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12. Den Svádební 5:00 15Kč
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13. Domácí Vojna mezi Duši a Tělem 5:24 15Kč
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14. Smutek bláznivých Panen 3:12 15Kč
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Ritornello, Michael Pospíšil
Magdalena Pospíšilová - vocal, organ positive, virginal, Jana Lewitová - vocal, percussion, Petra Noskaiová - vocal, Barbora Hrobařová - vocal, Václav Návrat - violin, Marcela Kaudelová - violin, Radovan Vašina - cornetto, Štefan Sukup - recorder, cornetto, Pavel Polášek - recorder, Ingeborg Žádná - viola da gamba, Miloslav Študent - lutes, percussion, recorder, Přemysl Vacek - lute, Jan Krejča - theorbo, Michael Pospíšil - vocal, organ positive, virginal, spinettino, cornetto, dulcian, percussion



Czech Marian Song, 1647

"... and now, my kind and Devout Singer, /
take this my brief Advice to thee /
and most devoutly search /
in that thou singst /
and what thou findest in thy search /
take to thy heart /
and Happy be." 

 

The geographical discoveries of the sixteenth century introduced humanity to the idea of Infinity, and then that of Eternity and Death. Willy-nilly, man had to come to terms with the frontier between Here and Now, this world, and Eternity - and death, which had to be accepted as part of life itself. Many writers of the "Baroque" period used the lute, the musical instrument most closely associated with love, to order the chaos of everyday life. The lute was the most popular instrument of the day, the harmony of its strings symbolizing the harmony for which the soul longed. Michna declared that "the Virgin Mary is the principal string of my lute, the godmother of all the other strings..." So we, too, should tune our strings, our individual souls, according to the souls of the saints, to harmonize with the Divine Lute-player.
     Adam Vaclav Michna (c.1600 - 1676), Knight of Otradovice, and the humanist Jan Amos Comenius were the two great Baroque poets of Bohemia. Michna was also one of the outstanding musical personalities of his time. This scholarly aristocrat, burgher, village organist and inn-keeper in one, expressed in his Czech Lute all the pain and yearning of Europe, torn by the Thirty Years War. Michna was not only the author of the verses and the composer of the music, but the publisher as well. He chose the simple, straightforward form of thirteen "dance songs", arias with an instrumental introduction and sometimes with an accompaniment, and thus created a remarkable poetic suite, an "oratorium". The intricate symbolism of the poetry is based on the parallel of two mystic marriages, that of the Blessed Virgin Mary with God, and that of the human soul with Christ. Michna guides the Soul, and us, through the dangers and temptations of the world, from the time of the Creation to the threshold of Paradise, in what is almost a theatrical performance. The virtuous life of Mary can strengthen the soul`s resistance to the lures of the world. Dialogue was a popular didactic medium, a pleasant way to present the rules of lute-playing, for instance, or a guide to social behaviour. The many planes of symbolism in Michna`s text lead us to an understanding of God, of our own selves, and of our path towards Him. These symbols, clear as they were to Michna`s educated contemporaries, and vividly real to simpler souls, can be traced today in the texts and the numbering of the songs, in their melodies, harmonies and compositions, in myths and Old Testament stories and their kindlier New Testament parallels, and so forth. The demands made on the listener of reader by the complex symbolism of the language are thus proportional to the individual`s level of education and his willingness to listen and understand. What each gained from music-making round the table depended on his receptivity, for the table was not only the place where one ate or conducted business, but a place of light, a meeting-place, a place of prayer and consolation. ¨
     When the Czech Lute was first printed in Prague, in 1653, by the Jesuit press, one book contained the vocal parts, basso continuo and the texts; another contained the basso continuo part accompanying the songs and the overtures, the "Organo"; while the third book provided the instrumental parts. This was a very practical arrangement, and avoided the need for a complete score without which most performers cannot imagine working today. All they had to do, then, was to read their parts without mistakes.
     The first modern edition of the Czech Lute (1943) was the work of Emilian Trolda, who used the two damaged books then available. He took one of the vocal parts, with its text (in one case two vocal parts) from the manuscript copied in 1666 by the church music director Matej Devoty, and now preserved in the Pardubice Museum. This he combined with the damaged "Organo" part then in the Strahov monastery in Prague, and now lost; here he cut away the margins and some of the musical notation. The missing parts of the basso continuo were reconstituted, the whole text transcribed, and the texts which had been faultily read and badly copied, were "corrected".
The second, much more accurate edition of the vocal parts of the Czech Lute, edited (1984) by Martin Horyna, offered an ideal combination of the facsimile vocal parts (from a MS in the Sobeslav Museum) with a modern transcription. The instrumental overtures and accompaniments, the "ritornelli", have not been found, nor have they been reconstructed and published, although there exists a careful copy of the lost basso continuo part, made by Trolda when the Strahov MS was still available.
     Our new amended transcription of the Czech Lute is based on the Sobeslav MS, but contemporary treatment of other sources has been taken into account, in the context of printing and interpretation practice of this period. The missing ritornelli have been restored by filling in the non-existent parts of the basso continuo in the most probable form, and then writing in the parts above. The result may be equivocal, but makes sense in the context of Michna`s other works and contemporary European practice. This kind of treatment was common practice, and indeed was one of the duties of a director of music or a conductor. The inconsiderable and long unused torso of the original ritornelli can be reliably judged from the "non-obligatory" overtures, the Czech Lute songs themselves, and other vocal works by Michna, compared with the international repertoire, which he was undoubtedly well acquainted with. Often these instrumental pieces were a "key to deciphering" the mood and mission of the songs themselves.
     Seeking to determine the original form and purpose of the Czech Lute, to find the appropriate historically and musically viable modality, we had to turn our attention to Baroque society and the function of music within it. This brought us to devise the social occasion of the "convivium" of a literary brotherhood or a Marian congregation, with music-making by the guests round the table. The convivium was the ideal occasion for people of different classes to play together, forgetting for a moment the social gulf between them. A favourite piece would "travel" round the table, changing according to its difficutly, the mood of those present, their ability and - not least - the instruments being played. This was the aim of our presentation, to stress the typical interplay of intimate and theatrical poetry in the Czech Lute, by broadening the standard chamber music ensemble of the day.
     Those listeners who already know the Czech Lute may be surprised from time to time by a change of tone, words, punctuation, tempo, or pronunciation. On the one hand we base our edition on the most accurate transcription of the Czech Lute; then we try to correct the printer`s errors in the spirit of the time; and finally we have tried to obviate some of the traditional erros of interpretation perpetrated even when the 1984 edition is used. In questions of tempo and proportion we have not been guided by modern principles, but by those of early European music, especially the Italian school. Michna`s music is truly Italian, even when his theme is German: "Nun lob mein Seel der Herren" - Now praise the Lord, my soul (from "Prologue"); "Ub immer treu und Redlichkeit" - His truth endureth for ever (from "The friendship of angels") etc. Since the rhythms of Michna`s songs differ from those of modern Czech (relating to seventeenth century Italian and Latin),we have tried with the help of contemporary texts to reconstruct the original pronunciation, while respecting quantity. Transposing to another key or a fourth, was common practice when mean-tone tuning was used, and different instruments which otherwise could hardly have played together. In our version transposition highlights the change from one strophe to another, and the individual characters taking part. Our choice for tuning is a compromise (a = 440 Hz) with that used in Bohemia in Michna`s day. It was not possible to record the whole text of the Czech Lute in the space of one CD, and our choice of verses preserves the character of the work as a whole.
     "Ritornello" is a loose ensemble of musicians who have been playing together for some time, and as soloists in other groups: players are invited according to the demands of the compositions under study, chosen from little-known seventeenth century music. Seeking their own well-founded interpretation, Ritornello dares to go to the limits of "light" genres, following historical sources and practice. A prime mover in the musicians` work together is the pleasure of music-making in itself. This aspect of music is embodied in the main theme of the Czech Lute: pleasure in the harmony of the different parts is like the joy of being part of a harmonious society: there is no need to know the whole score in order to play one`s own part, in life, and in our search for our true calling in this world. 

Michael Pospíšil

Further recordings by Michael Pospíšil and his Ritornello ensemble:

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